Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico team previews

As we are just nine days away from the FIVB Women’s Volleyball World Championship 2018, let’s look at three teams from the North and Central America & Caribbean (NORCECA) Confederation: Canada, Mexico, and Puerto Rico.

Team Canada – new coach, new expectations

Former Canadian national women’s volleyball team head coach German Arnd Ludwig was replaced by Italian Marcello Abbondanza who has led the women’s club Pesaro to a CEV Cup title in 2006 and the Turkish club Fenerbahce to the same title in 2014. His resume only gets stronger as he coached Azerbaijan’s Rabita Baku to a runner-up finish at the 2012 FIVB World Club Championship. With a new coach and system in place, the Canadians are raring to improve from their best finish at 11th place.

Leading the squad is team captain and wing spiker Kyla Richey who plays professionally for Jakarta Pertamina Energi in Indonesia. She will be supported by middle blocker Lucille Charuk and setter Megan Cyr. Middle Blocker Jennifer Cross as well as wing spiker Alicia Coulter and Brianna Beamish are other players to keep an eye on. Aside from them, they have young and talented players who also play for universities in Canada and the United States. Kristen Moncks and Jessica Niles will set the defensive tone at libero.

The Canadians are included in Pool B with Bulgaria, China, Cuba, Italy, and Turkey. They will play the Turkish on September 29 and Italy on the following day. They resume action on October 2 against China and battle against Cuba one day after. They will close out pool play against Bulgaria on the 4th.

Team Mexico – banking on youth

The Mexico women’s volleyball team was a force to reckon with from the 1950s to 70s by winning multiple Pan-American Games and NORCECA Championships. But that was generations ago. Now, the struggling program hopes that they won’t finish lower than the 21st ranking they got during the 2014 FIVB Women’s World Championship. To start the process of revitalizing Mexican volleyball, head coach Naranjo Ponce Ricardo De Jesus opted for a younger team in hopes of giving them valuable international experience.

Wing spiker Melanie Guadalupe Parra Quintero is the youngest at 16. Meanwhile, their oldest is libero Lizette Lopez Robles who is only 28. Their offensive attack is led by team captain and opposite spiker Andrea Rangel as well as middle blocker Karina Angelica Flores Gamez. Wing spiker Samantha Bricio, middle blocker Ana Nieto, and opposite spiker Uxue Amara Guereca Parra can also deliver the points when called up by setters Sanay Sashiko and Daniela Bernal Barranza.

Mexico will participate in Pool A of the FIVB Women’s Volleyball World Championship against Argentina, Cameroon, Germany, Netherlands, and hosts Japan. After their game against the Cameroonians on September 29, they will go up against the Argentinians and the Japanese in the next two days, respectively. They will get one day’s rest before hitting the court against the Germany and finish their pool schedule against the Dutch on October 4.

Team Puerto Rico – no pushover

Despite being a small commonwealth, there is nothing to belittle about Puerto Rico’s achievements in women’s volleyball. They have finished third in the last two editions of the NORCECA Championship and garnered a fourth-place finish in the 2015 Pan-American Games. Therefore, the 13th ranked team in the world cannot be underestimated by its opponents. At the helm for Puerto Rico is Jose Mieles who has led the team to a runner-up stint at the 2014 Central American and Caribbean Games.

Their team is a balance of youth and experience. Just like Mexico, they also have a 16-year-old in the roster: wing spiker Sofia Victoria. Meanwhile, their most senior player is wing spiker Aurea Cruz at 36. Aside from Cruz, team captain and setter Natalia Valentin can distribute the ball to wing spikers Daly Santana and Stephanie Enright, middle blocker Lynda Morales, and opposite spiker Karina Ocasio. Shara Venegas will be the anchor of their defense at libero.

Puerto Rico is part of Pool D in the FIVB Women’s World Championship 2018 with Brazil, Dominican Republic, Kazakhstan, Kenya, and Serbia. The Puerto Ricans will start their campaign against powerhouse Brazil and will face the Kazakhs in the last day of September 2018. They will then face the Kenyans, the Dominicanos, and the world third-ranked Serbia on October 1, 3, and 4, respectively.